Awjila Songs I

Fernando Zanon was a researcher who has written one article (Zanon 1932-33) on the Aujila language. The fascinating thing about this article is, is that it has some very short songs, giving us access to a genre of text not found in Paradisi. They are all two lines, and will be discussed in the series of posts dubbed Aujila Songs.

ġillîġ kām uggūt uggūt.
min ġair tġélli tìkra

Zanon translates ‘I want her so much, so much; and she does not want me’.

Surely this is wrong, as already pointed out by Brugnatelli (1987)

We should reinterpret this as:

ġillîġ-kām uggūt uggūt.
min ġair tġéllit-ì-kra

‘I want you so much, so much / Without you wanting me.’

  • ġillîġ ‘to want’ pf.1sg.
  • -kām, interesting spelling. In Paradisi, phonemically this is /kəm/, the 2sg.f. direct object pronoun suffix.
  • uggūt, uggūt ‘much, much’
  • min ġair ‘without’ cf. Ar. min ġayri ‘id.’
  • tġéllit ‘to want’ pf.2sg.
  • 1sg, direct object pronoun suffix
  • kra argued by Brugnatelli (1987) to be an old form of the negative suffix, different from what we find in Paradisi’s later texts /ká/, shows that the origin of this particle is /kəra/ ‘thing’.

It is however unusual to see negative marking combined with the Arabic min ġair ‘without’, which does not take negative marking in Arabic. Adam has informed me that in Eastern Libyan Arabic you can say min ġeyr mā tiktib šēy ‘without you writing anything’. It is perhaps possible that the element was interpreted to be the negative marker, and then calqued as the Aujila negative marker . But this seems like a convoluted solution.

A better solution perhaps, is recalling the original function of the Berber ulkra/ša/ka negative construction, which literally translates to ‘not … a thing’, which turned into a general strengthener of the negative ‘not … at all’, to eventually lose the strengthening function and simply become the negative construction in many Berber languages.

I think the most elegant solution to this odd construction is interpreting kra to have the meaning ‘… at all’, leading us to the eventual translation ‘I want you so much, so much / Without you wanting me at all.’

Another problem with the kra as negative suffix is that it disagrees chronologically with the data found in Müller (1828). In this, much older work we find the word ghaleika غليكه ‘cheap’, which evidently has to be interpreted as Ar. ġalī ‘expensive’ + Aujila negative particle . So if over 100 years prior to Zanon the negative particle had already become ka, it becomes especially likely that kra is an, etymologically related, but clearly different particle in function.

-M van Putten


Brugnatelli, Vermondo. La negazione discontinua in berbero e in arabo-magrebino. In: Bernini, Giuliano & Brugnatelli, Vermondo (eds.). Atti della 4a giornata di Studi Camito-Semitici e Indoeuropei. Edizioni Unicopli. 1987:53–62.

Zanon, Fernando. Contributo Alla Conoscenza Linguistico-etnografica dell’Oasi Di Augila. L’Africa Italiana 50.4/51.1-4. 1932-1933: 259–276.

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